Advertisement for Tarrant’s Effervescent Seltzer Aperient
Illustration & Poem by Palmer Cox
Century Magazine, August 1887, 6 3/4” x 9 3/4”, Collection of Old Hat Records
This full page advertisement appeared in Century Magazine, a popular American monthly that was published from 1881 until 1930. The magazine typically included historical accounts, reports of current cultural trends, fiction, verse, and engraved drawings by noted illustrators. Like most periodicals of the era it carried a profusion of ads for patent medicines.
Tarrant & Co. of New York enlisted the talents of illustrator and poet Palmer Cox to create this 1887 advertisement for its Seltzer Aperient, which promised to relieve “bilious disorders, constipation, sick headache, and torpidity of the liver.” Cox, born in Quebec in 1840, became known for the cartoons, prose, and poems that he contributed to numerous journals, first in California, then in New York. His most successful creation was a group of elfish creatures he called the Brownies, which created a national sensation. He would eventually write sixteen books and two plays that featured the Brownies.
Here Cox depicts a musical theme using anthropomorphic animals. A wandering minstrel, in the form of a frog, plays a whimsical stringed instrument as he serenades a family of fellow frogs and a colony of onlooking rodents, while a porcupine scampers in the background. Needless to say, the accompanying verse extols the many virtues of Tarrant’s Seltzer. The drawing is signed in the lower right corner with Cox’s characteristic initials.